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April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month

“Behind every distracted driving death is a story of loss. In the blink of an eye, lives can be transformed forever,” said Ford Fuchigami, Hawaii Department of Transportation Director. “Scrolling through song lists on a cell phone, or texting while driving is not just irresponsible, it can have tragic consequences. We’re calling on drivers to put down their devices and help keep the roadways safe.”

During April, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT), along with the county police departments, and traffic safety partners, Toyota Hawaii and DTRIC Insurance, will be working together to educate Hawaii about the dangers of distracted driving.

Presentations will be held at Drive Aloha Fairs statewide to demonstrate the dangers of distracted driving with the use of a state-of-the-art digital driving simulator system that allows drivers of all ages to experience how dangerous it is to operate a vehicle while being distracted. The digital simulator system is the only one of its kind in Hawaii.

“Distracted driving is a completely preventable cause of death or injury on our roadways. We believe education can be as important as enforcement in addressing this problem, which is why we are pleased to have our traffic safety partners and law enforcement agencies working with us,” Fuchigami added. “The collective goal of this campaign is to change driver behavior. We hope that once people see the statistics, they will evaluate and alter their driving habits to help protect themselves and others on the road.”

According to NHTSA, at any given daylight moment across the country, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving, a number that has held steady since 2010. Nationally, in 2014 alone, motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers claimed 3,179 lives and injured 431,000 people. Additional research shows that 10 percent of drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported as being distracted at the time of the crash.

There are three types of distracted driving: (1) Visual, taking your eyes off the road; (2) Manual, taking your hands off the wheel; and (3) Cognitive, taking your mind off driving. Operating a cell phone while driving involves all three types of distracted driving.

Hawaii’s law prohibits the use of mobile electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle, making it illegal for drivers to text or engage in other hand-held uses of mobile electronic devices such as cell phones, mp3 players, personal digital assistants and navigation devices. The law also prohibits drivers from using a hand-held mobile electronic device when stopped at a red light or stop sign. Furthermore, no person under the age of 18 may use a hands-free mobile electronic device while operating a motor vehicle. The fine for violating this law starts at $257. Violations in school zones or construction areas are subject to a higher amount.

Although distracted driving related incidents tend to be underreported locally, last year police issued over 20,000 distracted driving citations statewide. Increased enforcement of distracted driving laws combined with public education have proven to be an effective method to reduce distracted driving and save lives.

In partnership with Toyota Hawaii and DTRIC Insurance, the distracted driving presentations will be held at the following Drive Aloha Fairs, which are free and open to the public:

  • Thursday, March 30, 2017 – Tamarind Square, Honolulu 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Saturday, April 1, 2017 – Prince Kuhio Plaza, 111 Puainako Street, Hilo 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Saturday & Sunday, April 8 & 9, 2017 – Kukui Grove Center 3-2600 Kaumualii Highway, Lihue 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Saturday, April 15, 2017 – Kamehameha Shopping Center 1620 North School Street, Honolulu 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Saturday & Sunday, April 22 & 23, 2017 – Queen Kaahumanu Center 275 West Kaahumanu Avenue, Kahului 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Saturday April 29, 2017 – Pearlridge Center 98-1005 Moanalua Road, Aiea 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

More information about the dangers of distracted driving can be found at www.distraction.gov

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